A 25-year-old man pleaded guilty to committing a hate crime last year at an Illinois bakery that was planning to host a “family-friendly” drag show.
Joseph Collins, of Alsip, Illinois, was accused of driving nearly 60 miles from his home in Chicago to the UpRising Bakery Cafe in Lake of the Hills, located in McHenry County, on July 22, 2022. He was accused of breaking the bakery’s windows with a baseball bat and spray-painting anti-gay slurs on the building upon arrival.
Collins was charged with committing a hate crime — a felony — as well as a charge of criminal defacement of property and two charges of criminal damage of property.
Those additional charges were later dismissed after Collins agreed to plea deal in which he would plead guilty to the hate crime charge, reports the Daily Herald.
McHenry County Judge Tiffany Davis ordered Collins to serve at least half of an 180-day jail sentence, followed by 24 months of felony probation.
He must also perform 200 hours of public service, pay approximately $3,700 in fines and fees, and pay $2,300 in restitution to the owner of the bakery, which has since closed after taking a financial hit due to the vandalism and the loss of business stemming from protests against it for hosting the drag show.
Collins must also undergo a mental health and anger management evaluation within 60 days of being released from jail and comply with any recommended treatment.
He was ordered to complete an in-person program discouraging hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, must abstain from non-prescribed drugs and illicit substances during his probation, must submit to drug screenings, and is ordered to have no contact with Corinna Bendel-Sac, the bakery’s now-former owner.
Bendel-Sac called Collins’ actions “heinous” and said, at the sentencing hearing on August 16 that his actions caused “irreversible damages” to her business.
Bendel-Sac told the court that she, her bakery, her employees, and her public supporters were the subject of ongoing picketing, protests, hate speech, and “relentless harassment” after planning the drag show, while Collins was “hailed a hero” by opponents of LGBTQ visibility and drag for vandalizing her business.
She also noted that her employees and supporters were doxxed, with their personal information posted online by overzealous activists who believe that drag is a bad influence on children.
Bendel-Sac, a mother of two young children and a lifelong baker who grew up in McHenry County, said she had initially opened her bakery intending to support her local community and “all diets, beliefs, and lifestyles.”
“Throughout history, bakeries have been essential community resources providing food to pantries and homeless, donations to fundraisers, gathering places and education resource,” she said. “These five points create the moral and ethical pillars of UpRising Bakery.”
The vandalism caused $48,000 in damages and, as a result, the bakery went more than $30,000 in debt. The sustained protests and loss of business also harmed the bakery, leading to a loss of income from decreased sales and custom orders. Additional financial losses were incurred after Bendel-Sac was barred from local farmers markets.
Despite online fundraisers attempting to support the bakery, Bendel-Sac’s business continued to suffer, forcing her to finally close her business in June 2023.
“Everything I have worked for, everything my family has, is in this bakery and it was just violated and damaged,” said Bendel-Sac.
Despite the loss of her bakery business, Bendel-Sac asked that Davis sentence Collins to the least amount of jail time and maximum amount of probation possible. She also requested he undergo psychiatric evaluations, anger management evaluations, and diversity and inclusion training.
“I do not wish to cause Mr. Collins hardship in his future as he has caused me,” she said. “However, I do believe that extended rehabilitation, counseling, training, de-indoctrination can shape Mr. Collins into a more productive and inclusive member of society.”
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